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UNIT 8 Forces and Motion

Recommended Prior Knowledge

This unit introduces some of the most basic concepts in mechanics. The pupils will, by this stage in the course, be used to dealing with the idea of force but here for the
first time its exact definition is presented. Acceleration is a quantity which pupils will struggle with, even though they might well have some intuitive conception of what it
means. A failure fully to understand it is often betrayed by an inability to deduce or even consistently to use its correct unit. Similarly terminal velocity is a term which
many pupils will believe they are acquainted with but which few will fully understand at first. Be wary.

The ideas here fit in neatly with those of energy but there is not a huge amount of overlap and, as long as the term force has been taken on trust at an early stage, the
proper definition can wait until here with few disadvantages. It need hardly be said that these quantities and concepts form the basis of many types of engineering and
yet again this branch of the subject is economically and socially very important indeed.

The unit begins by distinguishing between scalar and vector quantities and it teaches pupils to combine vectors. Kinematics and the definition of acceleration are dealt
with by introducing the appropriate graphs. An understanding of the phenomenon of air resistance enables pupils to tackle terminal velocity. The importance of the idea
of resistive forces, such as friction, should not be overlooked as it explains why things behave so differently from what a simple interpretation of Newtons Laws might
lead one to expect. Newtons Second and Third Laws of Motion are covered in this unit and the Newton is properly defined. The unit concludes with the phenomenon of
motion in a circle and the need for a centripetally directed force to enable it to happen.

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1(a) Define the terms scalar and
Explain that forces cause movement (acceleration) and
that an object can only move one way even when several
forces act and so several forces must be the equivalent of
one total force.

Consider two forces cancelling and then opposite forces
producing a non-zero, resultant force.

Forces are not the only quantities which behave like this;
any quantity which has direction is a vector: displacement,
velocity, acceleration and force.

Scalars and vectors:

Emphasise that any
quantity which makes
sense when followed by
a direction word is a
vector. Both a force of
3.0 N upwards and a
displacement of 0.45 m
west make sense; but
a mass of 1.8 kg
sideways does not.
Simple experiments
using forces tables or
weights hung from
strings can verify the
rule. Use Newton
meters. Use scale
drawings for velocities
and displacements.

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1(b) Determine the resultant of
two vectors by a graphical
Consider two forces which are perpendicular and add
them graphically. Introduce the parallelogram rule and the
triangle of forces.

Vector addition:

1(c) List the vectors and scalars
from distance, displacement,
length, speed, velocity, time,
acceleration, mass and force.
The distinctions between distance and displacement or
between speed and velocity are arbitrary conventions in
physics which have to be learnt.

They are conveniently illustrated by estimating them for a
racing car travelling at uniform speed at various points
around a racing track especially after a whole number of

2(e)1 Plot and interpret distance-
time graphs.

Consider the distance-time graph and take its gradient.
2(e)2 Plot and interpret speed-time
Pupils often find rates of anything difficult. Plot graphs of
pupils height time or volume of water in bath time or
any quantity with a single unit time.

Talk about metres/year, litres/minute or
somethings/second. With a flying start, measure the time
for a pupil to run or bicycle 10 m, 20 m, 30 m etc. and plot
distance time graphs.

Consider a motorbike moving away from the traffic lights,
its velocity is increasing. The rate will be measured in
(m/s)/s. Consider numerical values. Calculate a.


Introduce the unit m/s
and consider objects
falling from cliffs; notice
that they travel further
in each subsequent
second. Use 10 m/s to
calculate the velocities
and displacements for
falling objects.
2(c) State what is meant by
uniform acceleration and
calculate the value of an
acceleration using change in
velocity/time taken.

Calculate the gradient of a speed-time graph. Consider
the distance-time graph of an accelerating body.
Run across the classroom accelerating from rest. Then
For a uniformly
accelerating object the
average velocity =
2(h) State that the acceleration of
free-fall for a body near the
Earth is constant and is
approximately 10 m/s.

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2(e)3 Plot and interpret distance-
time graphs.

Speed-time graphs:

2(i) Describe qualitatively the
motion of bodies with
constant weight falling with
and without air resistance
(including reference to
terminal velocity).
An object reaching terminal velocity is a good example to

Emphasise the distinction between a decreasing
acceleration and a deceleration (negative acceleration).

Consider the motion of a falling parachutist. Set up a tube
containing a viscous liquid and drop ball-bearings into it.

Or consider a rocket which accelerates at an increasing
rate as its mass decreases (F = ma is dealt with later).

Consider the speed-time graph in both cases.

Terminal velocity:

2(d) Discuss non-uniform

2(f) Recognise from the shape of
a speed-time graph when a
body is
(1) at rest,
(2) moving with uniform
(3) moving with uniform
(4) moving with non-uniform
Make sure that distance-time and speed-time graphs and
their gradients are understood.
Set up a large
pendulum (l ~3 m) and
observe its motion; try
to plot an approximate
speed-time graph.
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2(g) Calculate the area under a
speed-time graph to
determine the distance
travelled for motion with
uniform speed or uniform

Pupils will probably be able to use the formula x = vt in
ordinary situations when travelling for 3 h at 5 km/h one
moves 15 km. Use these ideas in the case of a speed-time
graph for a body moving at constant speed.

Emphasise that area does not mean cm of graph paper
but area according to the two axes. This has unit of m/s
s: m.

Area under the graph:

3(a) State Newtons third law. Emphasise that forces only ever occur in pairs; single
forces never exist. The horse pulls the cart, the cart
restrains the horse.

Suspend a hook from a support or the ceiling by friction
alone. Suspend a weight from the hook. Gradually
increase the weight supported.

As the hook exerts a larger force on the weight, the weight
exerts a larger force on the hook which is eventually
pulled from its support.

Get two pupils to lean against each other back to back at
an angle. As A supports B, so B supports A. Stand a pupil
on a set of scales. As the weight pushes down on the
scales and is recorded, so the scales push upwards on
the pupil, who does fall to the floor but stays a few
centimetres (the thickness of the scales) above it.
The third law:
Emphasise that two
third law forces never
act on the same body.
The forces are always
of the form: the force on
A due to B and the
force on B due to A:
= -
Two forces acting on
the same body may
well be equal in size,
opposite in direction
and of the same nature,
but they cannot be a
third law pair.

3(c) Describe the ways in which a
force may change the motion
of a body.
A body experiencing no resultant force will have zero
acceleration (constant velocity, but not necessarily zero

Consider: ice-hockey pucks, snooker balls, maglev trains,
hovercraft and space-craft. The Voyager probes are still
travelling in straight lines at huge velocities long after their
engines stopped working.

Friction free motion:

Examples of zero
resultant force acting
on a stationary body
are numerous.

The School resting on
its foundations, a book
resting on a table, an
exhausted athlete lying
on a trampoline (here
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the stretching of the
support can be noticed;
in the other two cases it
is too small to observe).

3(b) Describe the effect of
balanced and unbalanced
forces on a body.

Get the pupils to contribute as many appropriate words as
possible: speeding up, slowing down, stopping, changing
direction, reversing, swerving, lifting and so on.

3(d) Do calculations using the
equation force = mass x
Show that acceleration is the consequence of a resultant
force. Pull a trolley along a track using a falling weight and
a pulley.

If possible use tickertape timers, (or dataloggers) and
trolleys to show: a F and a 1/m. So F = kma but that
in SI k =1; this defines the Newton.

F =ma:

3(e) Explain the effects of friction
on the motion of a body.
Emphasise that the consequence of a constant, resultant
force is a constant acceleration not a constant velocity.
Stopping distances:

3(f) Discuss the effects of friction
on the motion of a vehicle in
the context of tyre surface,
road conditions (including
skidding), braking force,
braking distance, thinking
distance and stopping
Emphasise that when cars, trains and aeroplanes are
travelling at constant velocity, the tractive force is used to
cancel frictional forces.

Consider the effect of reducing or increasing friction
between the road and vehicle: oil spills and ice on roads
or gravelled escape lanes for lorries on steep hills.

Consider the effect of reduced visibility (night, fog, rain) or
the drivers condition (intoxication, tiredness, lack of

3(g) Describe qualitatively motion
in a circular path due to a
constant perpendicular force,
including electrostatic forces
on an electron in an atom and
gravitational forces on a
Pass a thin piece of string (~50 cm) through a narrow
length of glass tubing. Attach an object (small ball) to one
end of the string and a laboratory weight to the other end.
Hold the tube and set the object moving in a circle; a
balance is reached when the weight supplies the correct
tension in the string to keep the object moving in a circle.
Centripetal motion:

Relate these ideas to
the force needed to
keep a moving electron
in a circular orbit or a
moving satellite in orbit
around the Earth. The
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satellite (F = mv/r is not

Cut the string and observe the object fly off in a tangential
direction. Make sure that the object moves in a safe
direction and that no one is injured.

A force is needed for circular motion and when it is
removed, the object reverts to straight line motion with
constant velocity. Consider a motorbike travelling around
a curve hitting a patch of spilled oil.

The removal of friction allows the motorbike to carry on in
a straight line and to hit the outside of the curve. Consider:
a spin-drier, a bucket of water rotated in a vertical circle,
holding on to a roundabout or throwing the hammer in

word centripetal if
used at all must be
used as a direction
word (just like
Gravitational and
electrostatic attractions
are forces of physics
which in these cases
act in a centripetal
3(h) Discuss how ideas of circular
motion are related to the
motion of the planets in the
solar system.